What was in the briefcase in Pulp Fiction? TPS reports, apparently

Who: Visa Canada, with Publicis Toronto for strategy and creative; Partners Film for production (Michael Downing directing); post-production by Saints, Pirate Group, Alter Ego and The Vanity.

What: A campaign promoting “Visa Sharing the Screen,” a new program debuting during the Toronto International Film Festival.

When & Where: The campaign takes the shape of a trailer, with a 30-second version running prior to all gala and special presentation films during TIFF, and a 15-second version running before digital screenings on the festival’s online platform.

Why: Visa has been a TIFF sponsor for 25 years and “Visa Sharing the Screen” is being described as a “cornerstone” of the partnership moving forward. While extensive details of the program haven’t been released, Visa and TIFF say it will provide enhanced access to films, as well as creator talks and events.

The campaign is an awareness play for the program, says Publicis Toronto creative director Tina Vahn, built around the insight that hearing someone describe a film—even if they vigorously and assiduously re-enact its key scenes—is never as rewarding as seeing it yourself.

How: TIFF insists that any ads running prior to its presentations feature a relationship to the film world, so Van and fellow creative director Tricia Piasecki knew that would be a starting point for the campaign. The creative team had several approaches in mind, but spoofing Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction was the favourite among the ideas they presented.

“We were trying to something that was really part of pop culture, and that people across the ages could identify with,” said Vahn. “The great thing about this particular creative approach is that it works whether or not you know the movie. If you don’t know the movie, the payoff really makes sense because it is better to see the real thing, and if you do know the movie, there’s this bonus enjoyment you get.”

The spot is built around an office worker attempting to explain Pulp Fiction to co-workers who’ve never seen it. While the film is never mentioned by name, his full-on re-enactments of several of its most memorable scenes—Tim Roth’s “this is a robbery,” the dance scene between John Travolta and Uma Thurman, the latter’s accidental overdose—make it apparent.

Pulp Fiction was selected on the basis of its iconic scenes and action sequences, said Piasecki. “We needed something that had some pace and movement to carry viewers through,” she said. “[The chosen scenes feature] really strong visuals, so we didn’t have to rely on dialogue as much as physical action.”

And we quote: “We are excited to launch this new program as part of our renewed partnership with TIFF and look forward to seeing how it evolves and the impact we can create over the next five years. The trailers are a powerful communication platform for major sponsors, and we are pleased to use ours to announce the program to TIFF audiences this September.” — Brenda Woods, VP of marketing, Visa Canada

Chris Powell